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Monday, 1 March 2010

What If We Are the Videogame, and God is the Player?

Two of my favourite things to complain about have come together in an orgy of potentially epic metaphors and unbridled hatred in textual form. Namely, religious interference and the R18+ debate.

For those of you who do not know, the R18+ Debate is an ongoing discussion by the government's censorship boffins about whether or not to allow Australia to have an 18+ age rating for videogames. Currently, we do not have one, and so any game that is deemed too violent or too mature for a 15+ rating is merely banned. This frustrates Australian gamers because videogames are an even greater media than both the box office and DVDs, which do have the 18+ rating. Every other Westernised country has a classification for these type of games, and it is highly unfair, gamers say, that we should be discriminated against because our government does not know what they are on about.

Which is almost certainly the case.

Currently, the department that governs these sorts of things is under the outdated illusion that videogames are for children. Not so. A survey conducted in the US by the Ipsos MediaCT for the ESA shows that the average age for an American gamer is now 35; players over the age of 18 also take up a much larger proportion than those who are 17 and under (33% versus 18% respectively). In Australia, the average age is a bit lower, at 28; however, more than 50% of gamers are over the age of 18. [You can view the Ipsos findings for yourself here, and the article linked to below for the Australian figures]

As such, the lack of a category for games rated 'for adults-only' causes a major problem for the gaming community. The arguments of the South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson are perhaps the leading view of the anti-18+ group. One can gain an insight using this news article, but to summarise, he essentially opposes the classification because he is concerned that there are not enough measures to stop children from accessing this adult content. Which is all social and voter-friendly; who wouldn't vote for a man who wants to keep kids safe?

Well, I wouldn't vote for him because he is a madman who refuses to see past his own blind, misinformed opinion. He still labours under the view that videogames are for children, when the facts quite clearly indicate that this is not the case. He tarnishes the videogaming community as a bunch of blood-thirsty, adrenaline-fuelled potential murderers. He even once claimed that he is more scared of gamers than he is of bikies (gangs of bikers that murder people and intimidate). What soundbitish nonsense. I wonder if he is even aware that the Wii exists, in all its family orientated goodness? Is he aware that just over 40% of gamers are women? I think not.

His concerns over children being allowed to access this adult content is morally applaudworthy, but in practise entirely irrelevant. The state smacks a big 18+ sticker on the front of the box and it is then up to the retailer to check the I.D of the purchaser to see if they are, in fact, 18 plus. If they are not, then you refuse to sell them the game. Job done.

The only way that kids under 18 could acquire these games is through their stupid parents. The same stupid parents that need the state to keep adult content out of their child's hands, when, really, it is up to them. If your child asks you to buy Killing Murdering Assassin II, then surely the title would warn you that perhaps they shouldn't be playing this game. And to quote myself from an earlier post, doesn't the fact that the boxart shows the image of a ninja slashing people to bits with a sword larger than the Burj Khalifa alert you to the possibility that this game is not appropriate for your child? If you do not think the game is suitable, then you don't buy it.

The 18+ classification seems to work just fine for movies, and for gamers in other countries, but it is the arrogance and unwillingness to face the facts shown by Minister Attkinson that continues to ruin the Australian gamer's hope of fair treatment.

And now, forever wanting to give their opinion on something they know nothing about, the Christians have waded into the battle. If one clicks on the post title above, or on this piece of text here, then one will be taken to the article at the centre of today's post on The Sydney Morning Herald's website.

Read it? Good. Perhaps you too are staring in open-mouthed bewilderment at the biblical levels of idiocy put forth by the Australian Christian Lobby. I know I did when I first read it. Then I laughed the laugh of a man who had read the most fundamentally flawed argument ever conceived by humankind. But that's Christianity for you, so I suppose I should not be surprised.

Take, for instance, this:
"The consultation process appears to be structured in a way to primarily encourage participation from people with a pre-existing understanding of the R18+ gaming debate, or from those who have a prior stake or interest in its outcome," the Christian lobby wrote in its submission. "It seems to be geared strongly in favour of gaming interests."
Seriously, do they not see the flaw in their argument? They are complaining that the debate is favouring those who already know of the R18+ gaming discussion. So, what...? ... the people who know what they are talking about? The people that it affects? The people that wanted the debate in the first place? The people who want their voices heard on a subject that matters to them? I was under the impression that these are exactly the sort of people one needs to gauge the opinion of if one wants an informed discussion.
"Certainly the predictable weight of numbers for submissions in favour of the legalisation of R18+ games will be presented by gaming interests as conclusive evidence of widespread community support for their sale and distribution in Australia, when no such support actually exists."
Well, it seems fairly obvious that a 90-year old farmer living in the rural north-west is not going to give two scrotums about whether Australia has an 18+ rating or not. So why then does his opinion seem to matter more to the Christian Lobby than that of a gamer who is fully aware of the ramifications that such a rating would entail? The introduction of this rating affects primarily gamers, not the ordinary public. Certainly it does not affect those who do not play videogames. If they wish to submit their opinion on the matter then that is entirely within their rights. But suggesting that we take the views of people who the law would not affect, who know nothing of the debate and who in most likelihood couldn't care less, over the opinion of an informed person, there is something deeply flawed.

The argument that an 18+ rating for games exposes children to adult content is absurd. It is a protection law at its very heart, to restrict who has access to it, so why then is it deemed by Minister Attkinson and the Christian cohort to be a morally wrong and dangerous piece of legislation? I do not understand this. I do not understand why Attkinson thinks it is his duty to take the responsibility of protecting children from mature content out of the hands of the parent and into his own. I do not understand why the Christian Lobby felt the need to get involved. Who next? The Jews? Homosexuals? Does videogaming incite prejudice against the RSPCA?

It is not the duty of Attkinson or the Christian Lobby to tell adults how to live their lives. Adults are quite capable of making their own decisions, and to choose the content that they wish to view. It is not up to Attkinson to decide that videogames are for children, or that they should be restricted because he personally does not agree with them. The 46,000 people who signed the petition calling for the rating outweigh his 1, and also shows that he is not in tune with what the public wants. I thought it was the job of a politician, a senior politician at that, to do what the public wants. To Attkinson, I say this: this is a democracy, not a dictatorship; the reason you have power is purely because it is easier to get things done by having one person represent many. It does not mean your opinion is worth more, nor that you hold more of an authority than any of the voters who elected you.

The quicker he remembers that, the quicker we will have a 18+ rating, and then Aussie gamers will have the fair treatment they deserve.


  1. Dude i so agree. i mean what would be the difference in R18 movies and games? It seems to be working for the movies and getting those types of movies are much simpler than getting an r18 game would be.

    That kinda means he is saying that the parents are useless. i mean some are who let children watch r18 movies so they r already screwed up so who cares?

    The fact that christians have spoken out against it is just ridiculous. in fact the whole thing is ridiculous. grow up australian government.

    btw its ben here! as in bambi. ill look out for ur posts, they quite interest me! and stay frosty.

  2. What a thouroughly enjoyable read :P

    I do hope Jews and homosexuals get involved because that will then place them and the christians in a little fight of their own which will inevitably distract them from the original cause of distress.

    I cannot believe the Australian censorship. It boggles my mind. Though at least some games are edited to suit the system... wasn't GTA IV edited?


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